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189 ROH Respect Is Earned II 6/7/2008

ROH 189 – Respect Is Earned 2 – 7th June 2008

‘Respect Is Earned 2’ is a silly and grammatically questionable name for a show. Just saying! Anyway, it’s the one year anniversary of Ring Of Honor’s first pay-per-view. The card looks pretty good too, with new Tag Champions Age Of The Fall defending their belts against Team Work in your main event. We’ve also got what I believe is the concluding Ring Of Honor chapter in the Strong/Stevens feud as they meet in a Fight Without Honor (although I imagine they may still meet again in FIP). Plus Nigel defending the World Title, trios action featuring Sweet’n’Sour Inc. with Davey Richards, Claudio Castagnoli, Kevin Steen and El Generico all making the ppv portion of the show as well. The extended version also has Eddie Kingston back in an ROH ring for the first time since Cage Of Death in 2006 to face Jigsaw, with Jay Briscoe and Necro Butcher set to compete in their second ppv dark match Street Fight (following their bloody affair at Undeniable last year). In terms of lead in to the show, it’s been a long time since the last ppv (Take No Prisoners almost 3 months ago) and a lot has changed. For ROH followers who only watch the ppv, I imagine AOTF having the Tag belts again, Aries and Danielson teaming, no Briscoes, a thrown together World Title match and the continuously evolving roster of Sweet’n’Sour Inc. may come as a bit of a surprise. Still, I suppose that’s an incentive to buy tickets to the live house show and get onto and pick up some DVD’s. Still, I think this show is probably the first time that ROH and Gabe have struggled to link the ppv-only story canon into the full time touring schedule. Strong line-up though. Lets get to Philadelphia, PA

ROH VIDEO WIRE – See Up For Grabs (ROH188) review for details

This double shot weekend features new DVD menus. Sorry guys, the pounding, monotonous music is still there. But the blurry background action shots are gone (you know the ones, either the ‘legends in ROH’ video featuring Guerrero, Foley, Punk, Joe, Dusty, Funk, Heenan etc or the more wrestling centred one featuring Kobashi, Steel Cage Warfare, AJ vs Sydal etc). These are replaced with still images from the DVD covers. It’s not a patch on WWE or TNA production, or even the excellent moving menu screens we’ve had on both the PWG Sells Out compilations, but personally I prefer this.

Let’s start with the bonus footage as I think that’s the format I’ve kinda settled on for these ppv/bonus match split shows. Note Lenny Leonard goes solo on commentary for these matches

Eddie Kingston vs Jigsaw

We saw this match start to develop back at Double Feature when an angry Eddie Kingston invaded both nights questioning Ruckus’ split loyalties to BLK OUT (in other promotions) and Vulture Squad in ROH. This raised the ire of Jigsaw and when Kingston again invaded last night in Hartford, he challenged Jig to a match tonight.

They get straight into it in the aisle. Ruckus and Sabian are both at ringside. King shakes off Jigsaw’s chop attempts and flings him into the guardrails. At no point have I heard a bell by the way. Jig dropkicks Eddie in the face, driving him back into the rails. Flying headscissors OFF THE APRON by the formerly masked Vulture. Bell rings as Jigsaw enters the ring for the first time, nailing a missile dropkick. Kingston is WAY more popular than Jigsaw. He throws Jig out of the ring to be attacked by Sabian, despite Ruckus’ best efforts to stop them attacking his ROH partner. Jigsaw eats a few more chops and is beaten down to the canvas as he looks for a desperation Jig’n’Tonic. Randy Orton style punt leaves him dazed on the canvas. Sabian chokes Jig again, once again interrupted by Ruckus. Hurricanrana by the Vulture and both men are down. Satellite DDT from Jigsaw next for 2. He climbs the ropes for a 450 TO THE OUTSIDE ONTO EVERYONE FROM BLK OUT! He gets up and MURDERS Eddie with strikes, but King begs him for more. Back in the ring Jig hits the Burning Hammer for 2. I’m sorry, but Jigsaw using Kobashi’s finisher for a nearfall is damn near sacrilegious. Kingston hits an exploder suplex and an Emerald Fusion for two a we continue the puro sacrilege. Jig wins it with the worst looking double stomp ever witnessed. It’s over at 08:26.

Rating – ** –
Decent match, certainly immensely physical throughout. I like what Eddie has to offer. He has his detractors and I’m certainly not going to rave about his physical conditioning or his somewhat one-paced wrestling style. However, he is undeniably charismatic both in terms of promo/mic skills AND the way he physically portrays his character in the ring. He’s certainly different to a lot of the current rosterI’d certainly prefer him on the ROH roster to say…Jigsaw. This mini-program with Kingston and BLK OUT seemed to have the sole purpose of getting him over, and flopped massively. I can’t think how much better this would have been, and how much more over it would’ve been with the fans had we got Jack Evans and Julius Smokes involved, as opposed to Jigsaw. Honestly, he’s a talented wrestler and some of his more recent stuff I’ve seen from Chikara has been unbelievable (plus, in his defence, this was his second match of the night having already wrestled on the ppv). But at this point I’m sick to death of seeing him. He’s never looked comfortable as the token “wrestler” in a spot monkey stable (something even Jay Lethal/Hydro did a decent job of back in the Special K days) and hasn’t progressed a single iota since he came into ROH. He needs to take some time away from ROH, concentrate on Chikara where he’s a big deal and has an impressive body of work to back that up…

Necro Butcher vs Jay Briscoe – Philadelphia Street Fight

We all know that Jay is somewhat upset with Age Of The Fall since it was an attack by them (in particular leader Jimmy Jacobs) that left Mark on the shelf and forced the Briscoes to forfeit the Tag Titles they’d only just won from the NRC. It added more fuel to a fiery war that has raged since Man Up last year. He gets his hands on Necro tonight…

Jay gets on the stick and demands they start the match in the crowd. As you’d expect, Necro is happy to oblige and the chairs soon start flying. As usual the problem with watching a crowd brawl at an ROH show is that it’s poorly lit and at times impossible to see what’s going on. Necro whips Briscoe through endless rows of chairs, then picks a few more up just to throw them down on top of him. To the bleachers next, where it’s only the bodies of a couple of fans that prevent Butcher from launching his opponent clean off of them. In the end Jay hauls Necro up and powerbombs him on the hard floor. At ringside Briscoe charges at Necro who tosses a chair into his knees then delivers a backbreaker over the guardrail. He pulls out a pair of scissors and scares the F*CK out of some fans in the front row by waving them like a crazy man trying to stab Jay. But Briscoe uses a superkick to gain control of the scissors then dives off the apron to stab Necro in the head with them. ‘I’m like Brutus The Barber Beefcake’ – Jay. Unsurprisingly Necro is soon bleeding everywhere and subjected to a continued attack on his forehead with the scissors. We go into the ring for the first time, and Butcher is so bloody he can barely get to his feet. Jay asks the fans to stack chairs on top of the timekeeping table…a task they happily carry out for him. But Necro clubs Jay down before he can DVD him off the apron. He punches Jay clean off his feet then takes it to the apron again. Jay hoists Necro up…DEATH VALLEY DRIVER OFF THE APRON! The referee seems to want to stop the match but I guess since it’s a Street Fight he doesn’t have that option. Necro looks out of it…but Jay’s assault is curtailed by Tyler Black and Jimmy Jacobs who run in to help their comrade. And here comes Mark Briscoe, still with arm in a cast. SOMERSAULT PLANCHA UP THE AISLE TO TYLER AND JIMMY! JAY DRILLER ON NECRO! But he’s too close to the ropes and it’s only 2. Jay beckons Necro to his feet for a SICK CHAIR SHOT! BUT NECRO NO SELLS IT! He decks Briscoe with a wild punch flurry then drives a chair deep into his ‘groin’. Necro tears out a section of guardrail and you can see how bloody, rusty and downright dangerous those things really are. He crotches Jay on that guardrail segment than rams home another violent chair shot that draws another 2. That barricade segment is set up in the corner, but it’s Briscoe that capitalises with a DVD THROUGH THE RAILING! TWO ONLY! Necro goes low with a running kick to Jay’s genitals. TIGER DRIVER THROUGH THE GUARDRAIL! He wins at 23:30.

Rating – **** –
Needlessly and unbelievably violent for a throwaway bonus match, but you have to give it up for both men as that match was absolutely sick. Their Undeniable Street Fight was good and equally violent, but a meandering pace, confusing match structure, overload on “dead” spot set up time and general strange crowd meant it wasn’t, you felt, their best effort. Tonight was different and they delivered a memorable hardcore encounter. It was a gutsy move to put Jay in control of most of the match. He’s the babyface, he’s well-versed in being the underdog taking a beating (see the feud with Samoa Joe)…and there was also a very realistic possibility that Necro’s burgeoning popularity would swell to such an extent that fans would actively start cheering him at the expense of Jay. But it never worked out like that. It made perfect sense that Jay would be the aggressor here, after all, it’s HIS brother that is on the shelf and it’s HIS Tag Title run that ended prematurely as a result. HE is the guy looking for revenge, and even in Necro’s core environment, the street fight, it wasn’t illogical that it would be Briscoe taking the fight to him. And the fans ate it up, totally into BOTH guys. Necro gets the win which furthers the feud, doesn’t hurt Jay so much since it wasn’t Jimmy Jacobs and WAS in Necro’s preferred match type not his…and further nurtures Butcher’s growing cult status with a popular win. Like I said, there was really no need for this kind of graphic and intense barbarism on what was nothing more than a glorified dark match. But senseless or not, they left it all in the ring and I damn sure enjoyed what they produced.

Cost cutting in full effect as, I believe for the first time, Dave Prazak and Lenny Leonard appear to be introducing the show in a pre-taped segment rather than in the ring in front of the live audience. They introduce a stirring highlights package from ROH’s first year on pay-per-view. There’s some brilliant stuff in there.

Next it’s ANOTHER video package trying to explain the chaos that has been the Tag Team division in less than 30 seconds.

Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Ruckus/Jigsaw

This should be an action-packed opener. Both teams will want to get in the queue for a tag title shot at the new champions, and a victory here could determine which order they enter said queue.

We JIP which is something I ALWAYS hate with Generico and Jigsaw in the ring. They’re fairly evenly matched. Ruckus tries to use his speed to get the edge on Steen. He tries to backflip into a headscissors…that gets blocked so he hits a handspring corkscrew kick instead. Mr Wrestling decides to drag the Chocolate Vulture out of the ring and launch him into the guardrails. That gives Steen and Generico the advantage over the Vultures at the 5 minute mark. Ruckus nips up into a Pele kick on Generico…still no time to make the tag tough. Top rope Brainbustah blocked and Ruckus somersaults over his opponent to make the hot tag to Jigsaw. Ruckus hits a running moonsault to the floor on Steen but Mr Wrestling still has enough power to counter Jigsaw’s Jig’n’Tonic attempt into a backbreaker. Rope run tornado DDT from Generico into the pumphandle cradlebreaker for 2. Yakuza Kick and Jig is in prime position for the STEEN-TON/FLYING SPLASH COMBO! Generico pins Jigsaw at 08:44

Rating – ** –
Perfectly fine for an opening match. The Vultures got some fairly exciting offence in without damaging the credibility of Steen and Generico who picked up a commanding victory. A rematch with Age Of The Fall for the Tag Titles is a must surely…

Davey Richards vs Claudio Castagnoli

Singles match here. No real back story to go on, but both guys are solid midcard hands with inconsistent records on ROH ppv thus far. Richards gets a fancy graphic for his Kimura finishing hold, whilst Claudio has a cheap-sounding cover of his usual entrance music (minus the Queen intro of course…there is nothing cheap-sounding about the mighty Queen).

Prazak and Leonard try to frame this as two guys looking to get into World Title contention, and that is added to by the presence of Nigel McGuinness in the commentary booth. Richards eats an uppercut early but thinks fast by shoving Claudio out of the ring as he looks for that springboard European. Castagnoli falls outside…Richards follows with the LUNATIC TUMBLING TOPE SUICIDA! Davey ends up waaaay back in the crowd after that. But he keeps his head in the game and follows it with a missile dropkick to the arm. Northern lights suplex nailed for 2 and he floats into the Kimura. Claudio finds the bottom rope in a hurry. Richards is doing such an awesome job beating the snot out of Claudio that people actually start to cheer for him. Uppercuts from Castagnoli as Nigel complains that fans don’t boo Castagnoli for over-using that move as they do with his lariats. Match Killer hit by Castagnoli for 2. Davey kicks him in the head as he scales the ropes and capitalises with a super rana. SPRINGBOARD EUROPEAN gets 2. Les Artess scores for 2 as well, but once again Davey finds away to float into the Kimura. ARMBAR DDT FROM THE SECOND ROPE! BRIDGING ARMBAR! KIMURA! Castagnoli refuses to quit and actually stands up out of the hold. Big Swing executed, and happily Double C pauses to sell the arm after it. POP UP UPPERCUT! Claudio wins it at 08:17.

Rating – *** –
Disappointingly short but they packed a hell of a lot into it. Non-stop action with hardly any pause for thought. Richards looked fantastic in defeat here. In truth he hasn’t featured too much on ROH ppv, particularly as a singles wrestler. This was a great exhibition of how impressive he is when not teaming with another member of the NRC, whilst continuing the push Claudio Castagnoli has received this year. I assume his rematch with Nigel may well be on ppv given that they had McGuinness drop in for some commentary duties here. I know ROH has their TV show now – I imagine this kind of short, snappy but exciting match would be PERFECT for the 60 minute televised broadcast Ring Of Honor product.

Sweet’n’Sour Inc. cut a promo trashing Brent Albright, despite the fact that the ppv only fans probably didn’t even know that feud had begun. The promo also serves as an introduction to Chris Hero’s new knocking people out gimmick and Pearce’s briefcase.

Elsewhere Brent Albright says he calls his own shots and hates Larry Sweeney, leading into a video of him destroying the entire S’n’S Inc. faction at A New Level. Semi-decent promo from Brent there…

Chris Hero/Adam Pearce/Eddie Edwards vs Brent Albright/Delirious/Pelle Primeau

I’m not quite sure Brent’s choice of partners makes that much sense storyline-wise given the months he spend feuding with Delirious, and downright beating the sh*t out of Pelle. Didn’t he also beat up Daizee Haze (who is accompanying his team to ringside)? Either way, he quit Sweet’n’Sour Inc. in a spectacular way at A New Level and has assembled his own team tonight to try and beat his former employer’s team. Pearce feuded with Delirious for more than anyone cares to remember, whilst Hero has knocked out both Primeau and the lizard man at recent shows. Good to see Eddie Edwards getting a shot on pay-per-view too.

The babyfaces clear the ring as Albright gets a huge pop. Edwards starts in the ring and is straight on the backfoot as Primeau and then Delirious take turns working him over. Hero in but Pelle comes from the ropes into a flying headscissors. It’s only an intervention from an illegal Adam Pearce which finally puts the plucky Pelle Primeau down on the mat. ‘We want Albright’ – Philadelphia. Has this guy EVER been as popular in ROH? Delirious gets the tag though and torpedo’s himself into headbutts at both Pearce and Edwards. Del Rey trips him as he lines up the Panic Attack on Pearce though. That means S’n’S Inc. are on top again. They distract the referee meaning he doesn’t see Delirious’ tag to Albright. Brent lays in some illicit shots on Hero, but that just allows Hero and Eddie to double team Delirious whilst the ref’s back is turned. Double atomic drop from Pearce and Hero, into a big kick to the sternum from ‘Die Hard’ Eddie. The newcomer to Sweet’n’Sour Inc. has looked good in this match, and shows his speed by dropping into a leg grapevine on Delirious as he inches perilously close to the hot tag. At last he does dive through though, and in comes Albright to a big pop. 61-Knee on Pearce but Brent is distracted by Larry Sweeney on the apron. Del Rey tries to interfere and is attacked by Daizee Haze. Springboard press from Pelle then a satellite headscissors through the ropes to the floor. Edwards blocks the Kobashi suplex only to springboard into a powerslam. Air Raid Crash from Brent, then the UNPROTECTED KNEE STRIKES! The ref stops it at 10:15

Rating – *** –
Slightly corny and very sports-entertainment, but the match was well done, never boring and built to a steady conclusion. Plus, with the help of a surprisingly supportive crowd, Brent Albright comes out looking like an absolute monster. After some decent matches in 2008, the massive pop he got for leaving Sweet’n’Sour Inc. in New York and now this response tonight, right now it really does look set up for Albright to go on and do something significant. I can’t help but feel that putting Pelle Primeau on national ppv does much for ROH’s image though.

Pearce waffles Albright with the mysterious briefcase of doom and leaves him out cold. Sweeney gets on the microphone finally reveals what’s been hidden in it the whole time – it’s the NWA Heavyweight Championship. I think Pearce actually won it a couple of months ago, but I don’t know if that will be acknowledged on air or not. It doesn’t make much difference. Either Sweeney got Pearce to sell out by offering him the NWA Title (which had been in limbo after TNA broke free of the NWA banner), OR he got Pearce to sell out by promising him acknowledgement on Ring Of Honor programming as the NWA World Heavyweight Champion. Interesting development…

Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens – Fight Without Honor

This feud has been going on too long to accurately summarise here. Stevens, a former student of Roderick Strong (although I don’t think that’s ever been acknowledged on air) has been at odds with his fellow Floridian since he joined Austin Aries’ Resilience well over a year ago. Their feud has spanned two promotions, fractured stables, shaved Mohawks and encompassed fierce battles over the FIP Heavyweight Title. I believe this marks the final chapter in their feud (at least in ROH, I don’t follow FIP to know if they’re still going there). This could get VERY violent.

Fight starts in the aisle, taking about four seconds for the chops to start to fly. Roderick punts Stevens in the balls, but such is the hatred that even that doesn’t keep him down for long. Strong kicks his head into the guardrails but still Stevens comes back throwing chops and forearms. Seriously, some of these strikes are scary stiff. SUPLEX ON THE FLOOR by Strong. He bridges the guardrail and the ring with a conveniently placed ladder with Erick still down after that. But it’s Stevens that uses it first, Irish whipping the FIP Champion into it. Next he rams Strong’s head into a chair which, thanks to good camera work, is captured in graphic detail. Roddy STOMPS a chair into Stevens’ face in response. He pummels Steven’s legs with a chair with Erick trying to protect his head and torso. Ladder propped up over the turnbuckles now. But once again it’s Erick that winds up using it. He reverses the whip and sends Roderick head-first into it, leaving him bleeding heavily. STEVENS BITES THE LACERATED HEAD! Grotesque visual with Stevens staring down the camera, blood smeared all over his mouth. Blood is being sent several feet into the air with every strike Stevens delivers now. Doesn’t stop him from manning up and nailing a HALF NELSON BACKBREAKER THROUGH A CHAIR! To the floor again and Strong drop toeholds his opponent into the guardrails. In an unplanned moment of brutality, Strong starts sliding chairs into the ring, and accidentally slides one straight into Erick’s mouth. Stevens is up…GERMAN SUPLEX INTO THE CHAIRS! PUMPHANDLE POWERBOMB INTO THE CHAIRS! But then Erick wastes some time trying to position the ladder again, allowing Strong to recuperate and hit a conventional half nelson backbreaker. With the ladder bridge in place again they fight on the apron…leading to a TKO INTO THE LADDER! Strong is out, and as we look at replays of that spot, Stevens shunts a table into the ring. Once again that gave Roderick time to draw breath, and both men hit the ring again for another vicious war of chops. That ends in a massive lariat from Stevens and they’re both down in a heap. Strong up first and he caves in the skull with another chair shot. But it takes Roddy a couple of minutes to position tables in the corner and a ladder in the centre of the ring, so now it’s Erick that has some unnecessary recovery time. So it’s Stevens that gains control, and both men start, somewhat illogically, climbing the ladder. But seriously, this ladder is colossal and they are RIGHT in the rafters of the building now. Strong grabs Stevens…SUPERPLEX FROM THE TOP THROUGH TWO TABLES! THAT WAS INSANE! Both men look dead, but somehow Roddy manages to drape an arm over Erick to win the match at 22:50.

Rating – **** –
My mouth is still wide open after that absolutely crazy superplex to finish. The height they came from was unbelievable and it was a fitting conclusion to an underrated feud which, in reality, turned out to be far more entertaining and INFINITELY more memorable than it’s parental feud, the No Remorse Corps vs Resilience rivalry. Has it made Stevens a star? Probably not in all honestly. But it’s proven that Roderick Strong is hugely valuable to ROH (even if he probably isn’t ever going to break that glass ceiling and become THE man) and given Stevens some of his finest matches during his brief tenure here thus far. Indeed, these matches with Strong are what Erick can point to as justification for the monster push he’s had in Ring Of Honor since day one. Was this the perfect match? Probably not, there were a few too many pause to set up equipment moments, and some of the spots far too elaborate for the ‘we just want to batter the living sh*t out of each other’ vibe that they seemed to be going for throughout the majority of the contest. But it was bloody, violent, packed with brutal high spots and ticked all the feud-ending match boxes. It seems harsh to ask for much more than that.

ROH has got a new “visit” past stars montage. It’s largely the same (so lots of CM Punk, Samoa Joe etc) but updated to include the likes of Matt ‘Evan Bourne’ Sydal, Jay Lethal, Antonio ‘MVP’ Banks, Jeff Hardy hitting the Swanton and more. Nice work…

Nigel McGuinness vs Go Shiozaki – ROH World Title Match

This is technically a rematch as Nigel actually defended the belt against Shiozaki in Japan at the start of the year. Not sure what Go has actually done to earn said rematch, and the explanation Prazak offers seems questionable too. Not that I’m complaining too much as the match should be terrific. By and large Shiozaki has been tremendous since coming over at the start of February.

Nigel goes to the top rope early and gets superkicked off, tumbling all the way to the floor. Go gives chase to deliver his first chops of the match. Inside Shiozaki continues the chop-centric assault, causing blood to trickle from the already heavily bruised chest of the champion. Headstand into the mule kick proves that Go hasn’t watched his McGuinness tapes and at last brings Nigel into the match. Back Drop Driver from Shiozaki forces Nigel to roll to the floor. But he blocks an elbow suicida attempt and hits the TOWER OF LONDON TO THE FLOOR! With Shiozaki’s brains scrambled he rattles his arm into the ringpost a couple of times. Go charges and Nigel and gets driven shoulder-first into the ringpost again. The champion gets a little cocky and encourages Go to swing a few strikes in his direction. Cruelly, Nigel cuts his opponent down again with a forearm smash straight to the injured arm of Shiozaki. Hammerlock takedown by Nigel leaves the NOAH athlete squirming on the canvas in real pain. Once again he encourages chops from Go…and once again he drops him with a right hand to the bad wing. He thumbs the eyes then swings into the first McLariat of the match for 2. He throws another one but it’s blocked, but Shiozaki spins into another McLariat attempt just seconds later. Go no sells a superplex and connects with a superkick. GERMAN SUPLEX INTO THE TURNBUCKLES! But he takes an age getting up thanks to the pain in his arm. Once again McGuinness goes to the top completely unnecessarily and gets caught with a superplex. Shiozaki Moonsault misses. But he still CHOPS THE ARM to block it. GERMAN SUPLEX…NIGEL NO SELLS! JAWBREAKER LARIAT COUNTERED WITH A LARIATOOOOOO! Spinning chop to the face gets Shiozaki 2. Moonsault NAILED second time of asking and gets 2. Go Flasher blocked and Nigel goes to the arm again. LONDON DUNGEON COUNTERED TO A ROLL-UP FOR 2! GO FLASHER! NIGEL KICKS OUT! Nigel goes upstairs again for a hugely ugly crossbody and Shiozaki rightly rolls through that piece of sh*t to hit a NORTHERN LIGHTS BOMB! McGuinness rallies with some palm strikes, then EATS another huge superkick. But he rolls backwards into the JAWBREAKER LARIAT! LONDON DUNGEON! Shiozaki submits at 16:25. McGuinness retains.

Rating – **** –
I’ve had a little sneak peak at some of the ratings others have given this match…and it seems that NOBODY liked this one as much as I did. To me, this reminded me of some of Samoa Joe’s title defences (and that is NOT a bad thing at all). Fun, snappy, sub-20 minute stiff-fests were a hallmark of the Joe title reign. Even when you knew who the winner was (like his title defences against Jay Briscoe at Tradition Continues, or Dan Maff at Wrestlerave ’03), the violent journey getting to that finish was still a blast. And yeah, this match totally reminded me of that kind of title defence. Obviously McGuinness is a very different wrestler to Joe, but these two guys went out there and blasted each other with ferocious strikes, needless head drops, reckless no sells and big nearfall trading down the stretch. I’m sure when the book is closed on this run with the belt, nobody will be calling this match the greatest defence of his reign, but I’m calling it a huge step up from the solid but forgettable championship clashes he’s had with the likes of Jay Briscoe and Roderick Strong.

Bryan Danielson interrupts Nigel’s celebration to demand a shot at the champion on pay-per-view. He issues the challenge and leaves…

Another video package attempting to condense the entire Lacey/Aries/Jacobs triangle into mere seconds. That leads into our main event.

Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries – ROH Tag Title Match

We saw about three seconds of this match in Hartford last night during the Tag Title tournament. Unfortunately Aries lost his cool, used a chair on Jacobs, causing his team to be disqualified. Age Of The Fall would go on to win the belts. Once again ROH hasn’t gone easy on them on their first night, booking them straight into this rematch. We know Danielson has had a couple of great matches with Tyler recently, and is keen to get a win back on Jimmy (who beat him at Unscripted 3) but this match is really all about Aries and Jacobs. Jimmy wanted Aries in Age Of The Fall. He sent Lacey to recruit him, unfortunately Lacey would turn her back on Jimmy’s movement, and their relationship to get with Aries. Double A wanted to close the book there, but the heartbroken Jacobs went a little off the rails, finally chasing Lacey to her local gym where they were involved in a mysterious confrontation which has subsequently been revealed to have put Lacey ‘out of the wrestling business’. In a twist, it’s now Aries who is gunning for revenge. Will he be able to keep his emotions in check tonight though?

Jacobs is sporting two pierced nipples tonight, and doesn’t even get to make his entrance to the ring before getting smashed off the apron by Aries. On the other side of the ring Black hits a somersault pescado on Danielson. Once again Aries and Jacobs start swinging chairs…and we’ve got another DQ finish at 00:52. Black and Dragon desperately try to reason with their partners and the ref promises that, due to the significance of the match, he’ll restart it if they can control themselves. Rather sensibly it’s Dragon and Tyler who start in the ring once we do get going again. Danielson unloads a barrage of strikes then claws at the nostrils before Black is saved by his partner. It’s Team Work that have the advantage in the early minutes, working Tyler over with precision. Black lands on his feet out of a German suplex attempt by Danielson and gets the much needed tag to Jacobs. Unfortunately Jimmy takes a German suplex from Dragon instead. Benoit headbutt missed by Danielson…and Jacobs immediately leaves the ring to go after Aries. In the midst of that chaos AOTF manage to hang Danielson in a tree of woe for a big boot combo. They look for the Powerbomb/Contra Code combo but Austin saves with the Impact Explosion Dropkick. Stereo kicks from Team Work and Black is on the floor again. Unprotected face stomps by Danielson…but Jacobs SHOVES ARIES OFF THE ROPES as he looks for the 450 Splash. Danielson tries the airplane spin on him but is distracted by Tyler…and Jimmy sprints into a spear to the former World Champion. Tyler rips off Dragon’s trademark Mexican surfboard drawing Aries in to make the save. Jacobs seizes on the opportunity and kicks Danielson’s head against the ringpost. At ten minutes it’s the champions on top.

There’s a terrific little sequence in there with Danielson landing more massive forearm smashes on Tyler, only for the rookie to nearly kick his head off his shoulders with a big boot as Dragon charges. They place Danielson in a chair on the floor and Jimmy launches himself into a TWISTING PESCADO. Despite that move Dragon still jumps into a dropkick to block Tyler’s springboard lariat attempt and makes the tag to Aries. It’s Jacobs and Aries now and the other former World Champion in the match lands the IED again. Tyler tries to help his partner but Aries knees him in the head. BRAINBUSTER on Jacobs, into LAST CHANCERY! Black baseball slides in to make the save. HUGE leaping enzi drops Aries to the floor. End Time from Jacobs and this time it’s Danielson in to save his partner. MMA ELBOWS! But Jacobs stands up and counters with the CONTRA CODE FOR 2! Dragon still blocks God’s Last Gift from Black and drops him into the Triangle Choke. Jacobs tries to save only to be put into the LAST CHANCERY! Jacobs finally wrestles away and breaks the triangle choke with a SENTON BOMB! Aries pitches him out again and cleans his clock with the Heat Seeking Missile. But he charges at him again and Jacobs is aware enough to counter with a huge spear. Their brawl continues all the way to the locker room. In the ring Tyler is climbing the ropes but gets caught. Back superplex from Danielson for 2. MMA ELBOWS AGAIN! CATTLE MUTILATION! Black finds a rope to Danielson’s absolute fury. Pele kick…NO SOLD INTO THE SMALL PACKAGE! BLACK KICKS OUT! That beat him at Breakout! FUJIWARA ARMBAR but Black kicks him in the head. GOD’S LAST GIFT…FOR 2! GOD’S LAST GIFT AGAIN! PHOENIX SPLASH! BLACK PINS DANIELSON AT 24:35! AOTF RETAIN!

Rating – ****1/2 –
I had to think long and hard before giving that match the extra half a star. I try not to give this rating easily and I did have to question whether this match was a serious MOTYC. But, in a match where we all knew the eventual winners, I thought the four men delivered an absolute master class in story telling, as well as 25 minutes of breath taking tag team wrestling. The Aries/Jacobs feud was continued superbly. They kept the exchanges between the two to a bare minimum, and ensured whenever they DID come together it was wild, chaotic and almost always pushing the boundaries of what is legal in a regulation tag match. The angle at the start wonderfully put into context why two heated rivals who supposedly want to kill each other would REPSECT said rules in the first place. And in the midst of that, Danielson and Tyler have their own scores to settle. The last few minutes with those two were absolutely epic. Fans on their feet, completely split and the place came unglued when Tyler finally scored that big win over American Dragon. Even for a ppv only viewer, knowing nothing of the two excellent Danielson/Black matches, would’ve been over the moon for Tyler when he scored that big win. After his “breakout” performance (in ppv term anyway) in the match with McGuinness at the last ppv, he cemented his status at the top of the card tonight as part of a blistering main event. Ultimately it probably is an outside shot MOTYC…but I think it earned that rating. Great ppv match.

Nigel comes to the ring to gloat at Danielson for losing to Tyler Black and says that until he’s beaten everyone he’s beaten, he’s never getting his big ppv title match. But even that doesn’t stop people chanting for Tyler Black…

Rating – **** –
As ever, when it makes the step to pay-per-view, Ring Of Honor delivers the goods where it counts – in the middle of the ring. No other company delivers the kind of value for money that ROH puts out. This one featured a fun, fast paced trio of undercard matches building into the excellent triple threat whammy of memorable main event matches. Strong/Stevens was violent and bloody, the World Title Match was a puro-style stiff-fest, and the Tag Title main event delivered near-perfect story telling and tag team wrestling, culminating in Tyler’s massive victory over Danielson which nearly blew the rafters off the building (and this is with Black positioned as the HEEL in the storyline). Even the bonus features (including the wild Briscoe/Necro bout) are worth checking out. I would say that, of all ROH’s ppv’s this was probably the most clunky and poorly produced. There have been LOTS of storyline developments requiring multiple video packages which didn’t really do their respective matches/feuds a great deal of justice. Trying to condense the Aries/Jacobs issues, or the whole Strong/Stevens feud, or the bizarre Tag Title changes into sub-30 seconds is near impossible. I didn’t think the actual quality of the camera work/lighting/production was as good this time either. Save a few flash graphics, this looked like every other ROH show. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but to the casual viewer, little production issues like that do mean something. BUT, I guess anyone reading this is probably an ROH/independent wrestling fan in general…so this one is an easy recommendation.

Top 3 Matches

3) Nigel McGuinness vs Go Shiozaki (****)

2) Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens (****)

1) Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries (****1/2)

Top 5 Up For Grabs/Respect Is Earned 2 Weekend Matches

5) Nigel McGuinness vs Go Shiozaki (**** – Respect Is Earned 2)

4) Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Kevin Steen/El Generico (**** – Up For Grabs)

3) Roderick Strong vs Erick Stevens (**** – Respect Is Earned 2)

2) Kevin Steen/El Generico vs Nigel McGuinness/Go Shiozaki (**** – Up For Grabs)

1) Jimmy Jacobs/Tyler Black vs Bryan Danielson/Austin Aries (****1/2 – Respect Is Earned 2)

RIP Trent Acid btw. Jaw-droppingly awful news. I hope people focus on the tragic loss of a young life rather than the way a promising career was ultimately dogged and sidetracked by personal demons. I’m off to watch Acid/Homicide from Wrestlerave ’03…epic match.

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